According to a report, IAF bigwigs headed last week to the Dassault Aviation plant near Bordeaux–Mérignac, France to check on the progress of the second batch of jet fighters, which could soon be deployed to guard the country’s north-eastern border with China.
India, which has ordered thirty-six of the twin-engine, canard delta wing, multirole fighter aircraft, received the first batch on Sept. 10 and immediately deployed those to the contested Ladakh region.
New Delhi has confirmed that the delivery of the second batch of planes could take place in the next few weeks, and the officials were sent to France to ensure that the IAF will be able to ramp up as both India and China continue to build up forces along the Line of Actual Control (LAC), National Interest reported.
IAF Chief RKS Bhadauria told reporters that the additional three to four jets could arrive by the end of October or early in November, and added, “This will keep happening every three to four months,” and further indicated that New Delhi might be interested in purchasing more of the aircraft.
“In terms of whether we go in for more Rafale or multirole fighter aircraft, it will be an open competition, as it is currently planned. We have received the RFI (Request for Information) responses. So this entire subject is under discussion and debate.
“And when this situation and the picture becomes clear and we finalize the way forward, we will share with you,” Bhadauria said. The entire batch of the original order of the thirty-six aircraft is expected to be operational by early 2023, National Interest reported.
New Delhi has been eager to acquire new fighters to replace the antiquated MiGs, and the Rafales have been seen as the clear cut winner at this point.
France has agreed to equip Indian Rafale fighters with air-to-surface Hammer all-weather smart weapons, apart from air-to-air MICA, METEOR missiles and air-to-ground SCALP stand-off weapon.
Meanwhile, four Rafale fighters of the French Air Force will land in India this month to participate in joint exercises with the Indian Air Force’s Golden Arrows Squadron that was resurrected in September, Hindustan Times reported.
The exercises have been scheduled between 19 and 25 January in the skies over the deserts of Rajasthan, people familiar with the matter said.